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Is Google's Chromebook a Windows 8 Killer?

While Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman said she is in support of Windows 8, she never promised her company's exclusive support for the Windows OS. HP is apparently hedging its bets with today's launch of its first Chromebook laptop.

The HP Pavilion 14-c010us Chromebook has a 14-inch display, is equipped with 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB SSD and is powered by an Intel Celeron 847 (1.1 GHz) processor. It weighs 4.25 pounds, and HP claims battery life of 4 hours and 15 minutes. It's priced at $329.99.

HP joins rivals Acer and Samsung in joining the Chromebook party. To date, Chromebooks have not lit the world on fire. Unlike Windows PCs and Macs, Chromebooks are bundled with Google's suite of productivity tools, and the computers presume you're always connected using its cloud infrastructure as its platform.

It's a different approach and, in many ways, mimics the network computers IBM, Oracle and Sun tried pushing in the late 1990s with little uptake. Until recently, I didn't know anyone who owned a Chromebook. That changed a few weeks ago when Andrew Brust, CEO of Blue Badge Insights, tweeted he just bought a Samsung Chromebook.

Upon learning HP jumped into the Chromebook pool this morning, I checked in with Brust to see how he likes his Chromebook (I had made a mental note to do so anyway). He pointed out he needs more hands-on time with his Chromebook to fairly compare it to Windows 8, which he uses all day. Brust also has an iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7 and MacBook Air.

"People I respect have been saying the second gen Chromebooks were surprisingly good, so I decided to buy one, especially given the low price of $249," Brust noted. "The thing is surprisingly useable.  I still prefer to use Windows, or even MacOS, with a full version of Office. But the fact remains that the presence of a touch pad and keyboard makes the Chromebook a true content creation machine and at a price point that achieves parity with the cheapest of content consumption-oriented tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7.  And the availability of Chrome Remote desktop also makes Chromebooks useable as thin clients that connect back to beefier Windows machines."

He underscored the Achilles heel of the Chromebook is its requirement of a constant Internet connection. "But with the addition of the next generation of Chrome packaged apps, which will work offline by default, and run not only on Chrome OS, but also Windows, MacOS and Linux, Google really has something here."

As Microsoft looks to gain momentum for Windows 8, its primary target is offering a superior alternative to competing tablets such as iPads and Google Android-based devices as well as ever-so-slick MacBooks. Should Microsoft also be worried about the rise of Chromebooks?

"For Microsoft, this may just be a thorn in the side, but it's one of many," Brust said. "And with now four important Windows OEMs hopping on the Chrome OS bandwagon, it's got to be impossible for Redmond to ignore.  Meanwhile, I question how much revenue the OEMs can get on such inexpensive devices."

How much OEMs will emphasize Chromebooks remains to be seem but one can't blame them for hedging their bets after Microsoft launched the Surface PC/tablet thereby reneging on its 30-plus year legacy of not competing with them. Some, including Acer CEO JT Wang, have made their displeasure known, while HP is showing it by throwing its new Chromebook in the mix.

Have you used a Chromebook or are you considering one? How would you compare it to various versions of Windows and other computing devices you have used? Will Chromebooks emerge as a true player or will they just appeal to a limited niche of users, the fate I have predicted since their launch. Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/04/2013 at 1:14 PM


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